Over 2,200 young people in Blackburn with Darwen benefited from free meals and activities during the summer holidays as part of a government backed initiative.
Coordinated by Spring North, formerly The Families Health and Wellbeing Consortium, the ‘Get Stuck In’ clubs were part of the Department for Education’s Holiday Activities and Food programme to support families in need with healthy and nutritious meals and organised activities.
Between them, Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, Blackburn with Darwen Young People’s Services, Blackburn Youth Zone, Blackburn Rovers Community Trust, Inter Madrassah Organisation, Newground Together, Westholme School and Youth Action delivered 33,000 meals and over 400 hours of activities for children aged 4-16 years.
Newground Together, the charitable arm of Together Housing Group, delivered
1,762 meals and activity packs and 60 online sessions, as well as 32 face-to-face forest school classes at Greensleeves Community Garden on the Shadsworth estate. The online sessions included sport, craft and media activities as well as interactive challenges.
Adam Doyle, Community Programmes Manager at Newground Together, said: “The initiative was invaluable in allowing young people to reconnect with each other in a safe environment ahead of returning to school, which was a daunting prospect for many after such a long pause.
“The feedback we have received from parents confirms there is a real need for these kinds of programmes. One mum reported that her son had completely changed his habits as a result. During lockdown, he had become very lethargic and got into the pattern of staying up late and sleeping in but the programme inspired him to get up especially early because he was so excited and didn’t want to miss out. He also became a lot more talkative, chatting about the people he met and what they had been up to.
“The team also reported some remarkable changes in the young people they engaged with. One girl with autism refused to show her face on Zoom because she was so nervous but by the end of the session she was running around the house doing a scavenger hunt.”
He added: “We would not have been able to deliver what we did without the partnership of Beacon Elim Church who provided volunteers to help at Greensleeves and to help prepare the activity packs to go out on a daily basis.”
Angela Allen, CEO for Spring North, said: “With more than 20,000 children living in food poverty in Blackburn with Darwen, these holiday clubs provide a vital lifeline for families. In many cases parents are in work but struggle to support their households, reflected by the increasing number of children who are currently eligible for free school meals.”
Minister for Children and Families Vicky Ford said: “It is more important than ever before to make sure the needs of the most disadvantaged are at the heart of everything we do. We cannot afford for any of our children to lose out of their education as a result of Covid-19.”
Following on from this initiative, Newground Together has teamed up with Barnardo’s to help children, young people and families in Blackburn with Darwen and Calderdale cope with the Covid-19 crisis.
Managed by Barnardo’s and funded by the Department for Education, See, Hear, Respond is a new programme offering one-to-one support and digital group support, as well as detached youth work and crisis support.